Dealing with the Death of a Co-Worker

Dealing with the Death of a Co-workerWe don’t normally think about it, but it can happen at any moment. We can spend 40 hours or more every week with co-workers, which can make them feel like they are part of your extended family.

With the passing of a co-worker you may be faced with dealing with how to deal with that new situation. Here are some guidelines you can use to help you when mourning the death of a co-worker.

It’s OK to Grieve
Many workers aren’t given the appropriate time to mourn the death of a co-worker. Some employers give their employees up to a few days of bereavement leave for family and close friends, but the entire workplace can’t stop working if a co-worker dies. That’s why it’s important for everyone to grieve in their own way.

Studies have shown a decline in work productivity while holding in the pain and loss of a co-worker. Not only has it lead to increased traffic accidents during workers’ commutes, but the lack of focus has also increased safety hazards when working in a production or manufacturing environment with heavy equipment. Try having a private area where you and your co-workers can take breaks from work to mourn without public scrutiny.

Lean on Each Other
Mutual support can help everybody in your workplace get through the grieving process. Consider getting together during lunch breaks so workers can discuss their feelings and memories of your deceased co-worker. Get with those who were closest to the co-worker and try to organize a memorial service before or after work.

Your business may even have resources you can use to help you and your colleagues deal with the loss. Check with the HR department to see if your employer has any employee assistance programs that can offer support and structure during your grieving period.

Keep Going
While you need to properly mourn and grieve for your deceased co-worker, it’s important to get back into the work routine in a way that shows respect. Returning to work can ease healing if your group makes an effort to uphold values held by the departed and work toward goals that he or she particularly valued.

If the open position left by the passing co-worker is filled with a new employee, don’t make that person feel like a replacement. Try talking to your management to reorganize responsibilities and move desk space or work stations to  help spare the new employee and others the painful experience of having somebody new doing the job and working at the desk of the deceased co-worker.

Do Something Positive in Remembrance
In addition to a memorial service, get with your managers to see if company events like an annual picnic, party, award, or even a meeting room can be named after the deceased co-worker. That way, the person can be remembered with a celebration, not just a time of sorrow.

Another way to memorialize someone is to establish a fund in that person’s name. Try setting up a scholarship fund for his or her children, a donation to that person’s favorite charity, or money for a cause if the person died of a particular illness.

When grieving the loss of a co-worker, it’s important to think of the positive contributions he or she made to your life and to the lives of others. Try to make the same impact the co-worker had on you to others.

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